Getting Rid of Performance Reviews

After 30 years I have decided to have another go at improving my piano skills. I practice every day, I take lessons once a week, and still I’m nowhere as good as Horowitz or Lang-Lang. To be honest I’m a medium skilled player. But I love the direct feedback I get when playing. I can hear when I hit the wrong key or when I miss the beat. I cannot lie to myself; I know when I’m playing well, and when I’m not. Sure I can have different expectations. After one day my hopes would differ to my possibilities after one month. Nevertheless if I use the Jahori window phraseology I have no or only few blind spots when it comes to me playing the piano and I don’t need to speak to my teacher to know my development needs.

While practicing I have been asking myself the following question: how could we transfer this very direct and honest feedback loop to business life, and for me there is only one very simple answer: implement a culture of daily feedbacks. Yearly or bi-yearly performance reviews will never give you that direct opinion required to implement new skills or behaviors. You might get some ideas, some recommendations or trainings to attend, but you will not get the immediate pointer telling you that this specific behavior was not the most effective communication, leadership or interaction comportment you have ever shown. Sometimes you might notice, but more often you will not know that this was an inappropriate reaction and more importantly you will have no clue on what would have been more effective.

A culture of feedback requires people being able to give advices as well as people able to receive criticism. Last week in a workshop an attendee mentioned not wanting to give feedback in fear of having a bad working relationship with peers. Commenting in a hierarchy can also be a challenge in itself, and too often employees are scared to do so. Praise and reproaches alone will also not be helpful without concrete examples with some recommendation and alternative behaviors. And of course, giving feedback requires recognizing the great results and skills we have around us. We have little difficulties identifying the shortcomings of the people around us, but do we also see their values and strengths? This is what a culture of feedback is about: an open mind about the people around us, an interest in them and a respect for their view – even if they are different to ours!

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